Trading beads

We have an interesting collection of Trading Beads to share with you. Our colourful early African Trade beads include Italian Millefiori Murano trade beads produced between the 1880’s to the early 1900’s. In addition, we have  the black and white ”Swirl Batik” bone beads from Kenya. There are also old black ceramic beads in this collection, with white tribal markings, which make a real impact.

African trade beads were made in Europe and transported to West Africa initially by Arab traders, overland from North Africa. From around 500 years ago, the European traders used beads as currency to purchase gold, ivory and palm oil on the trading routes from Europe to West Africa then onto the West Indies, before returning with produce from the plantations.

These beads have played an enormous role in the culture, fashion, economy and artistic expression of the African people.